Family members of the black man shot and killed by Minneapolis police last month took to City Hall on Monday to decry his death, while maintaining they have no interest in a dialogue with the head of the state agency investigating the shooting or other law enforcement.
As the public awaits the pledged release of body camera footage from the shooting of 31-year-old Thurman Blevins, meetings are scheduled to take place in Minneapolis on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
The meetings appear to reflect both the anger in the black community and a desire by public officials — including law enforcement — for open discussion in order to ratchet back the tension that has become an almost inevitable by-product of officer-involved shootings.
Three relatives of Blevins called for the firing of the officers at a Monday morning news conference outside City Hall.
Police "executed and murdered my cousin," Sydney Brown said.
Mel Reeves, a longtime activist who accompanied the family at the news conference, said he and the relatives would have no part in two other public meetings this week, one with the Minneapolis police on Tuesday and a second on Thursday with Drew Evans, superintendent of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
"To be clear, we have not called for meetings with law enforcement including the BCA," said Reeves, a member of the Committee for Justice for June, coined after a nickname that some of Blevins' friends used. "We have no desire to talk with people so they can feel better about what they have done to June. The only thing that will satisfy us is justice."
Blevins was killed June 23 after police responded to a 911 call that a man was firing a handgun in the air and at the ground. They shot Blevins in an alley on the 4700 block between Aldrich and Bryant avenues N. Blevins' funeral is scheduled for Saturday.
The officers involved in the shooting, Ryan Kelly and Justin Schmidt, are on paid administrative leave. Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis Police Officers Federation, has previously called the shooting "nothing short of heroic activity," adding that the officers gave Blevins "numerous commands" to drop his weapon before they fired.
But at the news conference Monday, Blevins' cousin Brown had a different perspective. "June had no chance of coming out alive with these officers," she said. " ... This was a cowardly act done by the Minneapolis police department."
Mayor Jacob Frey has pledged to release the police body camera video of the shooting once all witnesses are interviewed. His spokesperson said Monday that the office is "continuing to work hard to expedite the release of the body camera footage."
Reeves said his committee will host its own meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Jenny Lind Elementary School, 5025 Bryant Av. N. There, family, friends and members of the community will discuss what happened and plan more protests.
The plethora of meetings reflects some "confusion" that could be alleviated if the two sides of Blevins' family collaborated, said Ron Edwards, a civil rights activist who hosts commentary shows on community television and internet radio. "There's clearly a lack of strategic planning and continuity." The community has a right to seek answers "because of the volatility we have right now," he said.
On Tuesday, activist Al Flowers will host a meeting at 5:30 p.m. at the Minneapolis Urban League, 2100 Plymouth Av. N. He said last week the meeting would discuss how to deal with such incidents as the Blevins shooting.
Minneapolis Deputy Chief Art Knight, who will attend that meeting, said it had been in the works for months.
"What we are actually trying to do is build police-community relationships," Knight said, adding that the meeting would cover several topics including summer jobs programs and camps and athletic programs sponsored by the Police Athletic League.
"This meeting is not a response to Blevins," he said. "If people want to talk about it, I would love to have a dialogue with the community."
The Thursday meeting at 6 p.m. at Webber Park, 4300 Webber Parkway, will feature the BCA's Evans and is hosted by the Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage, said its executive director, Justin Terrell.
Asked about Reeves' comment that he wanted no part of a meeting involving the BCA, Terrell said he was a friend of Reeves. "We see eye-to-eye on a lot of things," he said.
Terrell said the meeting was requested by his council based on feedback from the community.
"I agree that the family deserves justice. My role is different. I'm a state employee."
He said the meeting has three parts — a meal that will be served to community members beforehand, a presentation to clarify the process of the BCA investigation, and a discussion on "how to address the trauma from events like this.
"I think people are angry and I think people should be angry," he said. "I wouldn't describe it as volatile. I think people sometimes paint black folks as volatile."